Big Al’s 2016-17 Season in Review
It was a year of change for Big Al Jefferson, opening the next chapter in his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers.
Al Jefferson played the first 57 games of his first season in an Indiana Pacers uniform, but an ankle sprain left him sidelined as the Pacers closed up the regular season and advanced to the playoffs.
No. 7 embraced his new role as the veteran big man off the bench, mentoring and backing up Indy’s young post prodigy Myles Turner.
“Coming off the bench, you get to see how the game is going, you kind of sit back watching the game start off,” Al said. “I’m just going to do the best I can into it and fit in well.”
Al turned in seven double-figure scoring games during the first month of the season. He first started to hit his rhythm in a Pacers uniform with an 18-point night in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I was just hitting shots,” Al said of his night against Philly. “Since the season started, I’ve been getting my shots. But for whatever reason, they just haven’t been going down. Plus I’ve been getting double-teamed and fronted in the post. But tonight I just got in a great rhythm. Trying to keep it that way now.”
No. 7 then came through with back-to-back 16-point games in consecutive wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. The second victory came without the services of Paul George and Kevin Seraphin—so the Pacers needed every point out of Big Al, and the Mississippi native knew it.
“For us to be shorthanded and they had their full team, we go out there and do what we did tonight, that shows a lot,” Al said after the game. “Like I told my teammates, we showed we can do it now, so we can’t take a step back. We’ve got to keep going.”
Big Al matched his November with another seven double-figure scoring outputs, including an 18-point effort on the road against the New York Knicks. However, the Pacers weren’t where they wanted to be going into the new year. But when the calendar turned to 2017, Indy turned it around.
Al and Co. opened the year by winning six out of their first seven games, the sixth win powered by Al’s first 20-point night in a Pacers uniform as Indy outplayed the DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings for a big road victory.
“We were moving out of the way in the first half, we were letting Cousins do what he wanted to do,” said Al. “I think finally our pride stepped up and we just got a backbone and started playing together.”
The Pacers went 9-4 in January and opened February with four straight wins as well, but after playing the first 57 games of the season, the injury bug bit The Big Fella, who missed the next four games with dental pain.
Al made his way back onto the floor shortly thereafter and had worked his way back into form. He was en route to one of his best performances of the season, 6-of-9 from the floor with 14 points and seven rebounds, but early in the fourth quarter, he landed awkwardly and sprained his ankle.
“Anybody knows that when they roll their ankle like that, that’s instant pain, throbbing pain,” Al said. “I just have to get through it. This is probably my 600th ankle sprain. So I just have to get through it and get back on the court as quickly as I can.”
Unfortunately, the injury signaled the end of his first year in Indy. The Pacers drew a tough first-round matchup and made just a four-game run in the playoffs, swept at the hands of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.